The Arizona Desert Lamp

Battleshots, the drinking game of naval strategy!

Posted in Random by Connor Mendenhall on 15 March 2009

BattleshotsWe at the Lamp hate to see student government programs result in waste and inefficiency. Indeed, it would be a pity for the thousands of alcohol impairment cards printed and distributed by the ASUA Senate to languish unused in the hands of sober students catching up on linear algebra or watching Battlestar Galactica this spring break. Fortunately, I’m here to help, with a jaunty nautical-themed drinking game inspired by a classic and devised with the help of friend of the Lamp and all around good guy Ben Harper: Battleshots.

To play Battleshots, you’ll need:

  1. One copy of the board game “Battleship.”
  2. A stack of standard-issue red cups.
  3. Two copies of the Declaration of the Code of Maritime Law for the Game of Battleshots.
  4. Beer and liquor of choice for each player.
  5. Two sets of International Maritime Signal Flags.
  6. A nautical hat for each participant.

Of these requirements, only number six is truly inviolable. No battleship board? Use a grid of masking tape and seventeen shotglasses for the boats. Can’t find your set of signal flags? Print paper facsimiles from Wikipedia. Teetotal? Play with fruit juice and Kool-aid for all I care. But as for number six, I will be eminently clear: if you are not wearing a nautical hat, you do not play Battleshots. Period.

Unlike Eggward Noggyhands, a game both elegant and challenging by virtue of its simplicity, Battleshots is complex by design. However, underneath the hulking superstructure of rules lies the simple, standard procedure of Battleship. Essentially, each player is responsible for three things: a ship, a grog cup, and The Code. Here’s how it works:

The Ship

Before beginning a game of Battleshots, participants should divide into two teams of five, each led by a “Fleet Admiral.” Teams and Admirals may be selected either by consensus or a pre-game draft. Each team member then takes command of one of her fleet’s ships: the aircraft carrier, battleship, destroyer, submarine, or PT boat. The size of the ship one chooses to command is in direct proportion to the number of drinks one will be liable to consume, since each peg is a shot glass. However, each ship also comes with a limited number of chances to participate in the game and target the other team’s fleet. Want a quiet, normal night? Take command of the PT boat. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s always some guy totally stoked to command the aircraft carrier. Fleet Admirals: make sure he’s fit for command.

On your turn, you must hoist the appropriate nautical signal flags to indicate the square of the opponent’s grid you wish to target. For example, A-5 would look like this:

"A" "5"

In fact, there is no verbal communication between fleets during a game of Battleshots. Instead, the opposing team will hoist either the “affirmative” or “negative” flag to indicate whether your shot was a hit or miss. All other communication takes place by hoisting various signal flags, according to the procedure outlined in The Code.

Each fleet can establish its own turn rotation, but in each round of play, your rank determines the number of turns you’ll get to target the other team. Thus, the Fleet Admiral gets six targeting attempts per round, while the Commodore gets only three and the Midshipman just one. Once you’ve taken your turn, you’ll have to wait until the other members of your fleet have used theirs. See the full chart in The Code for details.

The ability to choose the number of shots you’ll consume by choosing a larger or smaller ship may seem downright responsible. That’s where the grog cup comes in.

The Grog Cup

Along with your ship, each player is responsible for his or her own grog cup, usually a standard red Solo. When you fire a shot at the opposing fleet and miss, you must fill your grog cup with one finger of beer (or, for advanced players, the real thing). If you or your fleet violate a provision of The Code, you may be required to consume the contents of your grog cup. This adds a layer of uncertainty to the game, though preternatural familiarity with the rules can mitigate the grog-cup effect. Which brings us to The Code:

The Code

Like the ASUA elections code, the Declaration of the Code of Maritime Law for the Game of Battleshots is a Byzantine thicket of complicated rules, just waiting for someone to break them and suffer the consequences. Each participant is responsible for reading, remembering, and adhering to the code at all times. For example, each ship commander must offer the appropriate Royal Navy Toast before consuming the contents of a shot glass or his grog cup, the only acceptable term of assent is “aye-aye,” and the words “boat,” “shot,” “drink,” and “glass” are all prohibited during gameplay.

In addition to these rules, the Code specifies that certain signal flags must be hoisted during particular points in the game. If your team needs to consult the rules, hoist V, “I require assistance.” If you land three shots without rebuttal (known in other games as the NBA Jam rule), hoist U, “you are running into danger.” If a team member hits the head, he is first required to hoist J, “I am leaking dangerous cargo.” You get the idea.

The best part about the Code is that, much like the market for complex financial derivatives, it is self-regulating. Since there is no sovereign authority on the high seas, Battleshots relies on the tenets of good sportsmanship to enforce the rules. If your fleet catches the other team breaking a rule, hoist the flag L, “stop your vessel instantly,” and declare the infraction. If you’re caught breaking the rules, you’ll have to consume your grog cup. Then again, if the other team isn’t familiar with the code, you may be able to get away with a few minor violations. Of course, relying on the honor system leaves some leeway for dispute, but participants should remember that Battleshots is merely a means to a far greater end, and keep their conduct civil.

Once one fleet’s ships have been entirely sunk, the game of Battleshots is over. For what it’s worth, I have never played a game of Battleshots to completion.

As always, consult your doctor for a full physical before shipping out, and keep an eye out for your fleet. Solitaire Battleshots is highly discouraged.

Anchors aweigh!

Image designed by the awesome Ron Lewis. Buy his shirt at Threadless.


5 Responses

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  1. Jimi Alexander said, on 15 March 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I’ll be at my house this Spring Break, working on my paper about College Drinking for my ENGL class. While I’ll be abstaining from absurd levels of alcohol consumption, I’ll see if I can squeeze a mention of Battleshots into the paper in lieu of actually attempting to play it.

    And yes, the references to ASUA (self-regulating! Byzantine!) were noticed and unquestionably hilarious.

  2. Dave said, on 15 March 2009 at 5:56 pm

    What about Stormy Seas?

  3. Garrett P. O'Hara said, on 16 March 2009 at 12:52 am

    What you also need is a copy of Publication 102, which allows mariners of different languages to communicate detailed messages to each other using international flags. The usual joke is to construct obscene medical conditions unfit on this forum, but I suppose trash talking is possible, too.

    You can also find the perfect attire for such an event here:

  4. Patrick said, on 16 March 2009 at 3:32 am

    An often overlooked phenomenon in Battleshots is the tendency for a ship, once hit, to be hit again repeatedly in quick succession. Rear Admirals beware.

  5. Skullkid said, on 16 March 2009 at 7:27 am

    The best game evahhh!

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